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Studying Bombed Thermal Midterm, Advice for Final Exam

  1. May 15, 2017 #1
    Hello all,

    I am a third year physics and math major at a quarter system public school. This year I've been getting pretty decent grades and achieved a 4.0 last quarter on 4 upper div math and physics classes. This quarter I am taking Topology II, EM Waves, Thermal Physics and a breadth class.

    I did well on my math and humanities class, however, thermal completely crushed me. I don't know the exact average yet but from what I know so far from over hearing lots of classmates it seems that my score is hovering around the average which is 18 out of 30 points. I think I did average at best. I haven't been a good student in thermal physics, I would daze out during class, not take the class seriously, procrastinate on homework, ect. This is due to my inability to prioritize my classes correctly.

    I was bogged down with a paper publication and EM Waves was killing me (although this is no excuse). Our class is composed of 30% midterm, 30% final, and 40% homework. Now here's why I am worried. Normally I get good grades in classes because I score very well on the midterm like top 5% but not very well on the final but well enough to get an A in the class.

    I have yet to get an outstanding score on a final exam besides in Linear Algebra. I just simply don't know how to study for a final to super kick ass in. Today I went to my TA's office hours and went over where I went wrong on the exam. The best I can do is learn from my mistakes. My study plan is to do extra problems and lecture to myself after every lecture to make sure I completely understand the material. I will also be going to my professor and TA's office hours which is three times a week to go through anything I do/don't understand.

    Does anyone have any study strategies to really do very well on a final exam? How do you keep your stress in check? Especially while studying for other classes? I don't think that I am an incompetent student, but my nerves always get the best of me during finals week. My final exam isn't until June 16th but I started today to fill in my knowledge.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2017 #2

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    You have hit the third year wall where all your sins ie bad study habits catch up with you and you either buckle down or sink. It happened to me partly due to working 20hrs per week which often becoming 30hrs in my third year due to to overtime ordered by the store manager (the money was good otherwise I would have quit)

    THe end result was that my homework was late and got docked and I couldn't really much spend time on it until the weekend and then I was a bit tired from work. I had one course in Classical Physics (Marion level) where the prof preferred to meet on Mondays and Fridays. Each Monday, he assigned problem to be done the following Monday and then to our surprise assigned a few more on Froday for the same Monday figuring we'd get it done. In variably, I would finish a week late, get lauded for the preciseness of my answers but then get docked a grade for lateness. I just couldn't win.

    What you need to do is to assess your schedule and to drop ALL non-essential things from it and to begin to rebuild your skills. In my case, I should have dropped work work completely and focused on getting things done like my classmates did but I was too depressed to think that way. you can't fix this problem overnight. You must be consistent, insistent and persistent to succeed (my Dad's advice)

    Consistent, by going to bed on time, eating healthy and doing your homework at the same set times everyday ie a get a fixed schedule for single focus and drop every other non-essential activities ie no drinking, concerts, playtime with friends etc...

    Persistent, you must keep at it. You must assess your weak points (from homework, from what you know you didn't understand and what you got wrong on quizzes and tests). This is very hard to do but sometimes your classmates can help if you see what they had problems with too. Problems, problems and more problems. Remember its the ones you don't know how to do from your class that will give the bigger bang for the buck.

    Insistent, you must stay focused on this plan of action until your grades have improved and are now stable. You can slack off, you are in training for a marathon (your finals) and you must stay focused.

    This goes for all your courses both good and bad. The sins I referred to earlier are in fact the things you failed o understand in earlier courses, chose not to follow up and only now you realize your mistake. All of Physics is built on Math and you must have a firm footing on Math to understand the Physics properly. Physics often provides the bounding conditions of a problem and the math provides the engine to find a solution.

    Take notes in class and then as soon as possible rewrite them and fill in the details. You could even record the lecture or use an app like Notability that can assign notes to points on the recording naking it easier to rewrite them more completely. Note, what the prof says sometimes they will hint at whats coming for a test. In one case, my profs was discussing Karnaugh maps and he let it slip that sometimes the map can be based on ones, paused momentarily (an oops moment) and then immediately switched topics. Out of curiosity I looked into solving them with ones and later that week it was posted on the test as a bonus problem.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnaugh_map

    Also be aware that profs may get problems from any readings you may have and never mention anything in class about them.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  4. May 16, 2017 #3
    I just wanted to say thank you very much. Your insight is very helpful. I looked over my exam today and saw that a lot of the problems were derived from lectures just an added twist to them. From now on out I will be paying very close attention to lectures and then re writing my notes right after. I will continue to go to my professor's office hours. Lastly I will try to change my mindset and be much more proactive with my schedule. Thank you very much for the motivation! I will do my best :)
     
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